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eBay Encyclopedia: Terms to Know Before Selling on eBay or Starting an eBay Business

Updated on February 24, 2011
eBay encyclopedia
eBay encyclopedia

Reference Sheet: eBay Terminology

eBay is more than just buying and selling. There's a lot of detail that can be frustrating to understand. Learning the terms and concepts can help you be more successful on eBay, whether you're looking to find cheap deals for your jewelry collection or trying to clean out the house by selling your kids' old toys. In the current economy, eBay can be a valuable way to earn or save money, but only if you know how to use it.

If you are new to eBay, or just want to improve the way you use it, here is a reference sheet with some definitions and explanations to help you get started. This is not a complete list. For the full eBay glossary, click here.


There are 2 types of people who buy on eBay:

  1. People trying to find better deals on eBay than in stores, or who are trying to save on gas money by shopping online
  2. People who want things that aren't sold in stores, products that can only be sold in a place like eBay


There are, again, 2 types of sellers on eBay:

  1. Small-time sellers who sell as a hobby, to make some extra money, people who sell from their homes
  2. Business owners who own their own stores, who know the ins and outs of the marketplace, people who use business jargon like "maximize profitability"

Acronyms: Have you ever seen acronyms in listings like NRFP! VHTF! OOAK! and wondered what the heck they mean? You can find a list of commonly used acronyms at this link.

Auctions: the most common way to buy on eBay. Potential buyers bid on items. The highest bidder wins. Okay, it's not QUITE that simple. When you bid, you enter the highest price that you are willing to pay, but you won't necessarily have to pay that price. The way that eBay auctions work are in increments. The bid will only ever go as high as (in lower priced auctions) 50 cents more than the second highest bidder. The increment amount increases as the price increases. There is a chart that shows when the increment increases. Here's an example:

  • Say that Bob wants a vintage guitar. The auction price begins at $20. He bids $50, but since he is the first bidder, the price stays at $20. As of now, he is the winning bidder. Sally comes along and tries to bid $23. She immediately receives a message that she was outbid, and the price now shows $23.50, with Bob as the winner. The bidding has gone up 50 cents more than her highest bid. She tries again, this time bidding $75. Since $75 is higher than $50, Sally is currently the winner at $51. (Because the price has gone up considerably, the increment has increased to $1.) If no one else bids, she will win the auction at $51.

Auctiva: website that is not a service of eBay but is affiliated with it. It's basically a free tool for sellers that lets them jazz up their listings and save money on listing fees.

Buy It Now: another way to buy on eBay. There is a set price, and there is no bidding. The first person to choose the item wins it at that exact price.

Buy It Now or Best Offer: a slightly different type of Buy It Now (BIN), where you can send in an offer of a different amount of money than the BIN price. The seller can choose whether to accept the offer or not. More than one person can submit an offer.

Categories: Items for sale must be listed in some category. There are hundreds of categories, which start out broad and then get more specific. An example of an eBay category: Toys and Hobbies--TV/Movie/Character Toys--My Little Pony--Pre 1990.

Completed Listings: Members of eBay can look at the last 2 weeks of listings that have ended by choosing "Completed Listings" when searching. If you want to sell something and want to see how much other people sold the same thing for, this is a good place to look.

Disputes: can be filed by either seller or buyer if one does not hold up his end of the eBay contract. A buyer can file an official dispute through eBay if the seller doesn't send the item the buyer paid for. A seller can file a dispute if the buyer doesn't pay.

eBay Motors: a different eBay site with different rules. As the name indicates, this is a site for selling cars and car parts.

Feedback: a rating system on eBay, your reputation. Both buyers and sellers receive feedback, which can be positive, negative, or neutral, based on how well a business deal went. There is a relatively new rule on eBay, however, that sellers cannot leave anything but positive feedback for buyers. This is because buyers wouldn't leave negative feedback for truly terrible sellers because they were afraid of "retaliation". A negative feedback looks just as bad for a buyer as it does a seller.

Final Value Fee (FVF): a fee that sellers must pay to eBay when their item sells. In addition to fees for listing upgrades, eBay takes a percentage of the final sale price of the item. This is called the Final Value Fee.

Listing fees: fees that a seller has to pay to list items on eBay. You can find specifics about prices at this link.

PayPal: as their ad says, a safer way to pay. Instead of giving your credit card number out to everyone you buy from, you only give personal information to PayPal, which is a trustworthy "middleman" for your money. Also, if either buyer or seller doesn't hold up their end of the deal, PayPal will deal with it for you.

Retract (a bid): essentially canceling a bid you've made on an item. This is not something to do lightly. A bid is a contract in which you agree to purchase the item if you win. You may only retract a bid under 3 circumstances. These circumstances can be found here. As the link says, "changing your mind is not a valid reason for retracting a bid." Plus, to further discourage retractions, all retractions that a bidder makes goes on their public user record.

Revising: Just because you hit "submit" and the item has been listed doesn't mean it can't be changed. Sellers can revise their items even after they're up for sale. The amount you can revise changes dramatically, however, once a bid has been placed. If someone bids (or if there are less than 12 hours left in the auction), then there is very little that can be changed.

Shill bidding: bidding just so the other bidder will have to pay more – doing this purposefully, especially by request of the seller, is called shilling and is punishable by suspension or expulsion from eBay

Sniping: bidding in the last few seconds of the auction so they win the item, "sniping" it from the other bidders at the last second

Stars (Feedback stars): a colorful reward system for getting positive feedbacks. There are different colors for stars based on how many feedbacks you have. The star goes next to your username on your feedback profile. The color/feedback ratio can be found at this link.

Stores: Sellers with lots of stuff to sell can open an eBay store (not for free, of course). This means the seller gets her own page, store name, categories, and page design. It's like an actual store.

Store Inventory Listings: Only store owners can use this form of listing. It's very cheap and lasts for 30 days rather than the 7 days of most auctions. However, these listings are much lower in search results.

How do you use eBay?

Are you a buyer, a seller, or both?

See results


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

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    • TroyM profile image


      9 years ago

      Might add other eBay services like Activa (I see that above, but I mean there are others). It's neat to compare sometimes.


    • AndyBaker profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      Great hub - never seen that many useful descriptions about ebay in one place before!

    • needful things profile image

      needful things 

      11 years ago from Poland

      Wow... This is a very informative site. As a an eBay Instructor I can say that soem of those terms were never inlcuded in the course. You gotta learn them on your own.

    • nancydodds1 profile image


      11 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Its very informative and useful for sellers and buyers. Thanks for sharing valuable information.

    • profile image

      Leta S 

      11 years ago

      Good info. As a new e-bayer, I encounted some things I didn't expect when I was trying to sell my one and only Gucci bag. At the end of the bidding auction, my item was flooded with bidders, but I had promised to end the sale for a lady in CA at a specific price--the bids came in so fast, I couldn't!!

      I think the best policy is always to be honest with people--just as you would in a non internet transaction. Hopefully, my situation will work out.

    • Dona Rosa profile image

      Dona Rosa 

      11 years ago from Tennessee

      Print time :)

    • LizTaylor profile image


      11 years ago from North Carolina

      As a Marketing Director for a Fortune 500, we never see this type of info mostly because Ebayers tend to be mom and pop, stay at home types but this is some great info and something that should be considered by the major players in the ecommerce world.

    • esocial profile image


      11 years ago from California

      GOod hub, thanks for the info!

      All the listings terms themselves could be one hub :) A lot to understand - and pay - there ....

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      11 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      This is very useful information for both sellers and buyers, whether they're just beginning or have been on eBay for a while. The links are valuable...I had no idea the proxy bidding chart was out there.

      Welcome to HubPages, Profound Puns. I'm looking forward to reading more of your Hubs.

      Best regards, Sally


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